Thursday, August 31, 2006

I am such a twerp

I've finally lost it ... you will remember from my post yesterday that I said DS was starting a new school term today. So, I got his uniform ready, made sure he had his holiday homework and dinner money and then I rang my childminder to say that I would take him to school today, as it was the first day of term and he likes me to. "Okay", said my childminder, "But the first day of term was yesterday." I had missed the start of term. DH had the day off work yesterday and could easily have taken my son to school, instead, they spent the day in the house, doing chores and chilling out. Cue one distraught child in tears, both because he had missed the first day of school and because he thought people would think he was stupid. I tried to explain that actually it was his mother who was stupid, but he took a while to calm down. I still don't know how I got it wrong. In both my diary and the kitchen calendar I had Thursday as the start of term.

Blogger is still playing up, this is another one of the vintage quilt tops in Kaffe Fassett's collection at the Festival of Quilts. I have a picture of the whole top, but it just won't upload. Isn't it deliciously scrappy?

When we got back from the show I played at making a modern version with bright fabrics like this. However, before I go any further with it I have several WIPs to finish (or start):
- borders on Depression Block Top
- piece top for Antique Cutie
- finish piecing recycled top

I also really want to make a start on Tonya's XOX challenge quilt so this is going to have to go on the back burner for a while but it is a project that I want to return to soon.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A nice cup of tea

This is actually not the picture I wanted to show - I have been trying to upload some quilt pictures from the Festival of Quilts but blogger wasn't having it, no way, no how, and I should know, I've been trying for nearly 3/4 of an hour.
But for some reason blogger is happy to upload this picture of my favourite drink - tea. I drink lots of tea, and I like it strong, with a little milk. When we go to Europe I really miss it because it is not worth asking for as it comes very weak and the water it's made with isn't boiling. I just like the packaging on this box but this brand makes good tea too.

On the quilt front, I have been mainly cutting out more strips for the recycled top and will hopefully be able to sew more this weekend. However, could be dodgy as I have also taken it upon myself to hire a skip (think you might call this a dumpster). The time has come to declutter - starting with our garage, which houses a large and growing collection of old cardboard boxes, kid's toys and odd tins of paint. To give an idea of the scale of this problem, I have to confess that our garage contains no less than eight bicycles. And the loft (attic), well, I couldn't even begin to go there. No, seriously, I couldn't even begin to go there, the floor is covered with boxes, books, more old toys - you can't walk from one side of the room to the other.

Tomorrow is the first day back at school for DS, and DD starts Sixth Form College - feels like Autumn is here already.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Lake District

We spent the weekend at my in-laws in Carlisle, which is in the north of England near to the Lake District, one of the most beautiful areas of Britain. It is about 4 hours drive from where we live, DH's sister and her family were there also. I have to confess that this is an old photo, we didn't go into the Lake District itself this time. Although we did hop over the border to Scotland to do some shopping at an outlet village in Gretna and we visited the Roman excavation site at Vindolanda in Northumbria which was fascinating. There was a Roman fort there as part of the fortifications on Hadrian's Wall, which was northern limit of the Roman Empire. They have found an amazing number of Roman artefacts there including the earliest known document handwritten by a woman (actually an invitation to a Roman birthday party). An archaeologist on the site said that because of the sheer size of the site it will take them 200 years just to excavate it fully. They can only excavate in the summer months as the place is very bleak and inhospitable in the winter and the weather would be too cold and the winds too fierce to dig.

No more travels on the immediate horizon, so I'm looking forward to concentrating on some sewing and catching up on all your blogs.

Friday, August 25, 2006

We are spending some time with DH's family this weekend so I'll be offline until next week. Thanks for all the kind comments on my recycled top and have a great weekend everyone. P.S. This is the first post I've ever done that doesn't have a picture - feels kind of weird.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Much better

I took heart (and inspiration) from Finn's comment about cutting up the strippy top and decided to make a version of another of Bonnie's patterns from, Strip Twist, which I've made before. So I cut up the Simply Strippy top into squares and triangles and put it back together like this.

I am so pleased with how it came out, I like it much better than the strippy one that I started off making and this one will lie flat. It used up all of the top that I had made but I am going to carry on and make a bigger quilt - I just love the randomness of it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The perils of recycling

As some of you know, I like to use recycled fabrics in my quilts as well as new quilting fabric. When my mum and I went to the Quilt Show at the weekend, we both found that the quilts that most appealed to us were the ones in Kaffe Fassett's collection of vintage quilts, like the one in the picture. We both like the 'maverick' quality and to us the imperfections made the quilts so much more lively and interesting to look at than some of the very perfect, planned quilts on display. Because the quilt has been washed, or the fabrics were cut down from clothing in the first place they also have that lovely soft look to them.

At the show my mum bought her first rotary cutter and ruler and is now fired up to start quilting. She has always sewn a lot, and when she had her shop she made cushions (both the living room and lacy bedroom varieties) and other goods to sell. So she has quite a big collection of furnishing fabric but not much lighter weight printed cotton. To start her off I made her a basket of pieces - all the fabrics except two are recycled from shirts or other clothing and they are in the pastel colours she likes.

So, I was all inspired to make a very quick quilt on Sunday. I thought I would make a 'Simply Strippy' quilt from Bonnie's in blues. However ... here's where it gets perilous. I was using all recycled fabrics, all 100% cotton, but they were different weights, some of them are very flimsy Liberty and Laura Ashley Fabrics and others were shirts so thick they were almost homespun. Generally when I piece this doesn't matter because the pieces are smaller and the differences in the thread count and 'stretch' are minimal and don't cause problems. There were lots of recycled fabrics in my Depression Block top but it went together just fine. But because the strips in this quilt are longer the differences between the fabrics become more pronounced! At first the top went a bit like a banana - curved over to one side, so I compensated for this by stretching the next strip that went on and so on. It did come back straight again but this made great big 'pillows' in the top that I don't think will quilt out. You can sort of see them in the picture. It's no great disaster - I can cut up the top into smaller pieces and make bags, or cut it in half and see if sewing it together a different way will help. I am clearly not a person who learns from her mistakes because I have just remembered that the same thing happened at Christmas when I sewed strips together to make stockings. Maybe I should have tried piecing using a walking foot?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Back from our travels

We got back from Berlin yesterday - I've done so much walking I feel as though my feet don't belong to me anymore. My DH is very interested in the history of the city and provided our very own tour commentary! It's hard to imagine it as a divided city now, very little of the wall remains, although the line of where it ran is marked in paving stones. The first picture shows the Berlinerdom or cathedral and to the right of it is a more recent landmark, the Television Tower - it has a revolving restaurant on the top - we went to the bottom but the queues were too long to wait to go up (apparently the lifts are very small). Instead, we went up to the glass dome of the Reichstag at ten o'clock at night and had a lovely view of the lights of the city.

There is still a lot of building work going on in the city as they build on former open spaces or replace buildings erected by the former East German regime. What is fascinating is that where there are gaps in buildings they erect scaffolding covered with painted tarpaulin to show what the building will look like when it is completed and to provide a more aesthetic view for people. So the 'building' you see in this picture is actually a printed cloth covering scaffolding, a bit like a film set, I suppose.

And lastly, I couldn't resist a picture of this bear, the symbol of Berlin - don't you think he looks quilty? We also went to the Zoo, which DS enjoyed greatly - no bears there though (or at least I didn't see any).

Tomorrow I am going to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, it is meant to be the biggest Quilt Show in Europe so I have high hopes that it will be inspiring and that I will be able to take some pictures to share with you.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Firstly, thanks to all those who have given advice on the thread - I think I am going to go for...cream (now why didn't I think of that - you can see why I need to ask for advice). But...I am also toying, just toying mind, with Patti's suggestion of handstitching. Although I have said that handstitching is not my favourite occupation, I can't bear to sit doing nothing either. I thought crochet had filled that gap, but somehow, right at the moment I'm not in the mood to crochet. I did once make a quilt with appliqued ducks and ducklings all over it and they were all sewn round with blanket stitch - the handstitching was effective - it wouldn't have looked half as good if I'd machine sewn it, but I can't say that I enjoyed the actual sewing. Strangely enough, I don't mind sewing down the binding on quilts at all. I'll mull it over a bit more before I make a decision, but I am tempted. Sadly, I don't have a picture of the quilt to show you those stitches - it was made for a friend's baby and I forgot to photograph it before I gave it her.

As a bit of light relief after all that cutting, I made up a couple of Tonya's wonky houses. Doesn't the one on the right look straightlaced against the nice and wonky one on the left? I know which one I prefer - the wonkier the better.

I have just bought this book. I think part of what attracts me to quilting isn't just the artistry and colours but the history of them too. I know this book isn't specifically about quilts but there's a sort of tenuous link. It is entirely made up of diaries and letters of women who travelled on the Western Trails, complete with spelling and grammar mistakes. It had really good reviews on Amazon, although it seems quite an academic book. I'll let you know how I get on with it.

This will be my last post for a few days so have a good weekend all.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

'Antique Cutie'

This is the block pattern for the floral quilt I am making, the blocks are set 3 X 4 with sashing in floral and muslin. The pattern is called 'Antique Cutie' and is from Terry Martin's book, Focus on Florals. I've just laid out the bay leaves so you can see the rough layout, I think I've cut up about 46 different floral fabrics for the bay leaves and the sashing strips so I think it qualifies as scrappy, but surprise, surprise, doesn't make much of a dent in the stash.

One thing I would like some advice on...when I iron the leaves down properly and go round the edges, what colour should I use for thread. In the book she seems to use black, which I think would be the traditional colour, with a machine blanket stitch. My machine doesn't do blanket stitch so it will be a widish zig-zag. I think black will be too stark, but what are the alternatives? I'm currently thinking green or maybe even red.

This has taken me the longest time to cut, yet it doesn't seem much when you look at the pieces in their zip-lok bags. I don't expect to make much progress for a couple of weeks as we are off again on another break soon, this time to Berlin. Yes, that's right, Berlin, that well-known holiday destination. Don't ask, my DH has always wanted to go there so where he leads, we follow!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shirts and stash

Today I went to the hairdressers. I HATE going to the hairdressers, I would rather go to the dentist anyday. It was a catalogue of disasters, I got there only to be told that they had mixed up appointments and could I come back in 3/4 of an hour. My confidence was further eroded by the stylist announcing that she was leaving (as coincidence would have it to become a dental receptionist). Hairdressing not her vocation then! She then proceeded to cut my hair, finishing with a fringe (bangs to you in the US, I think). Not a straight fringe, oh no, but one sweeping across my forehead at a ski slope angle. She straightened it up a bit when she heard my gasp of dismay but it was cut totally blunt and I like mine feathered a bit. I asked her to do so and her reply was "I don't have the right implements". Apparently, scissors aren't good enough these days. She didn't get a tip and I will have to get my mum to sort out my fringe tomorrow. Good job hair grows, eh?

On the quilting front, I am not partaking in the August stash buying embargo as you can see. I do not feel guilty about this - I allow myself a certain amount of money every month to buy fabric and I usually order it from the US because it's cheaper. Other than that, the only way that I buy on impulse is shirts from charity shops. The top pic is shirts all cut up and ready to use. There aren't any really good quilt shops near to me and the couple that are near are so expensive that I wouldn't be tempted to buy on impulse anyway.

The next pic is my fabric for this month (although strictly speaking it is out of last month's salary. I don't have many brights in my stash but I love the look of them so I ordered some of those from Thousands of Bolts. Other than that I just buy what I like the look of and worry about how to use it later. I figure that if I buy it because I like it, at some point or other it will fit together with other fabric that I've bought for the same reason.

And lastly, here is part of what I have been cutting up for my floral quilt - it is going to be part-applique, but fused and machined applique of course! I was hoping to get all the bay leaves cut out today but I ran out of bondaweb (steam a seam) and though I nipped into town at half past four to try and get some, neither of the two places that stock it had any. Cutting the pieces is my least favourite part of the quiltmaking process.